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Virtual Erma

By Yvonne Ransel

I wasn’t sure how it was going to work or feel, but I saw members staging their Erma swag and got excited.

I knew I had the YOU CAN WRITE! mug and even the yellow-faded mouse pad, but my two remaining unbroken wine glasses were ensconced in our condo in Fort Myers Beach. You see, even though I live only three hours from Dayton in Indiana, my husband refuses to leave Florida in late March. So I’ve taken harrowing expensive flights two or three times from Southwest Florida through Atlanta to get to the Marriott in time for that Thursday night cocktail hour, disheveled but grinning from ear to ear.

As I perused my bedroom bookshelf, I started pulling out all the books I’d purchased at previous Erma’s, some by esteemed speakers like Bruce Cameron, Lisa Scottoline and Gina Barreca or wonderful Erma writers like Elaine Ambrose, Lori Duff, Terry Sykes-Bradshaw and many more. I stacked them on my painting/writing table in my library loft along with a framed signed print from "Funky Winkerbean" creator Tom Batiuk. I spread out the spiral bound Erma books and the lanyards with my name tags, the last one with a sticker of Laughing Out Loud, the anthology I’m in with other Erma writers that was edited by Allia Zobel Nolan.

All this for inspiration.

I was to be away from my husband on the main level while he watched ESPN or a fishing show or college football. If I tired of sitting, I could lounge on the couch up there with my IPad and even have a bathroom nearby.

So this is what really happened. I work until 5 at the reference desk on Thursdays. I had an early two-hour lunch with my art teacher and four nonstop masked busy hours at work. I ran into the house at 5:45, turned on the oven to warm up the pizza leftovers and carefully climbed upstairs with Ipad and keyboard in one hand and a glass of pinot noir in the other.

My smile was wide as soon as I heard the Queens’ voices and my shoulders relaxed in turn. My husband was kind enough to bring me a slice of pizza, but I forgot to ask for the bottle of wine. So between Kathy and Cindy and the lovely Patricia (Wynn Brown) with the Rowes, I ran downstairs for more wine and pizza. I still had on my work clothes and couldn’t wait to shed them but didn’t want to miss a minute of that first night. I could hear Jeopardy from the living room TV and yelled an answer before my husband did during a glitch in the Crowdcast app. Thank goodness, by evening’s end my tech-y questions were answered.

After all that prep and staging (and hiding things from the photos I can’t find now) I ended up the next morning in my usual writing place, the kitchen table, with my husband using his side as his “office” and half the kitchen island as his back bar. He’s a trustee and is doing his hearings telephonically so he doesn’t even need to get dressed.

I didn’t want to disturb him, so I found my ear pods to listen to and watch my sessions. There were times when I laughed out loud while he was negotiating with another attorney, and his eyes would widen. I even shared some of the keynote speakers with him when he was free. When I didn’t need to take notes, I just found a more comfortable lounge or couch to watch — IPad in one hand, wine or coffee in the other.

Of course, I missed all the old and new friends I had made since 2012, the raucous tables at lunch and dinner and the late-night parties in the lounge at the Marriott. But this amazing conference managed to make me smile, laugh and learn despite its strangeness. One thing I really liked was the feeling that all the presenters were speaking right to me, instead of from a dais or a stage to a crowd. I’m sure they missed our adoring faces but hope they felt the love.

Thank you so much Patricia, Nancy, Teri and team. Kudos to all of you.

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